A few weeks back I posted my top albums of 2005, and a recent discovery made the list. I found Johnny Society via an absolute rave review in the latest Harp magazine and followed that up by checking the All-Music Guide profile of the band, which was even more of a rave. Enough said. I bought their latest album, called Coming To Get You and it’s pretty much been playing non-stop since.
I love love love when I discover a new band that just totally kicks my ass. Johnny Society is a NYC-based quartet (sometimes a trio, apparantly) and there’s nothing terribly inventive about what they do – it’s simply how they do it. I haven’t a band with this sense of adventure, versatility and just outright sharp and memorable music in quite a while. Suffice it to say I was very excited when I heard that “Coming to Get You” was one of five Johnny Society albums. I’ve already bought two more and they are bliss. What a find. File them under “criminally underappreciated.”
All that said, being bowled over like that prompted me to dust off the old Item Five feature and do a little spit shining. Johnny Society’s record label, Messenger Records, put me in touch with Kenny Siegal, the band’s songwriter and lead singer, and that was that. While some of Kenny’s answers are of the one-word variety, it’s still great to be able to communicate with musicians that move the needle. Here goes:
1. What do you think you would be doing (besides music) if you weren’t in one of the most underrated bands I’ve ever heard?
2. When you see, time and time again, overwhelmingly positive quotes about Johnny Society in People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and the New York Times, how does it make you feel?
3. Are you the kind of musician who doesn’t care one way or another about press? I mean, how can you not care about the All-Music Guide writing that “The New York City trio, simply put, is one of the most phenomenally talented rock & roll bands in the world.” Or that Ray Davies (from the Kinks) likes the band? That’s gotta stroke your ego a little, no?
You’re leading the witness
4. Moreso, what about the idea of making a living from music? Seems more and more artists these days are falling more dramatically into two camps – those who will sell their music to TV commercials and shows like “The O.C.” and those musicians who view such actions as abhorable. Do you have any problem with an artist making a buck like that if they have to?
Why shouldn’t artists make a living?…. If you’re an artist and people find your work to be of value than great for you!
5. What was the last thing that made you laugh really hard?
Jared Whitham’s songs ‘Northport’ and ‘Virtual Reality Dog’
6. Who do you think are some of the most underrated bands/musicians out there?
Ed Pastorini, Blueberry, Weak, David Deporis, Dr. Snitch, Adam Cohen from The Mommyheads, John Dyer, Mr. Forky, Nervous Cabaret, Jen Turner, Inappropriatta, Rima Fand, Chris Rael, Brion Snyder, all names to look out for because they are all great musicians/ songwriters and are mostly unknown but hopefully not for long. (Also the late Chris Whitley- whose work was known, but not enough.)
7. Did it blow your mind that Garth Hudson (The Band) contributed to your most recent album? I mean, one day did you just stop and think to yourself “Garth Fucking Hudson played on my record!!!” That song “Find A Light” is really powerful. One of my favorite tracks on the album.
Yeah Garth Hudson blew us away …we knew he would ….that performance on “Find The Light” was his first take…. he’s a class A musician…..hopefully we’ll do more work together.
8. Why don’t you ask me a question?
Have you heard Johnny Society’s other records?
Jeff answers: I’ve heard and own two others, “Clairvoyance” and “Life Behind The 21st Century Wall.” Can’t wait to hear the other two.
9. What’s on tap for the band in 2006?
Some touring to promote “Coming To Get You” and then more recording..Hopefully we’ll be playing in Europe as well.
10. If you could go back and change a decision you’ve made during your life, what would it be?
I wouldn’t have eaten that burrito I ate for lunch …..
11. Which band would you have liked to have been in more: The Hollies, The Byrds or The Clash?
If I have to choose between these three I pick The Beatles.
Big thanks to Messenger Records and Kenny Siegal. Welcome back Item Five! I’ll have another neat interview soon.